Iquitos, the center of the mighty Amazon
Iquitos, a backpackers gem, and the world’s largest city on the planet without any access by regular roads. Laid out in the middle of the great South American rainforest, it is absorbed by dense jungle, wildlife and adventure.
You arrive in an intense heat where the tropical life is paced slower and adds to the extreme till your fingertips. Explore the great Amazon on its many boats and canoes, cross over by river to Brasil or Colombia and inhale the wild to make this an unforgettable experience!
Iquitos, the city
The magnificent city of Iquitos is mainly known as THE town to take a motor boat on the Amazon to Brasil or Colombia, while lying relaxed in a hammock and enjoying the rough nature, pink dolphins and typical other untouched jungle wildlife. Its Amazon reputation also gives way to a lot of fun activities on the water, like canoe tours which are full of adrenaline and fear when it gets dark.
Iquitos has some attractive points that make sticking around I town definitely worthwhile. Such as the Casa de Hierro, designed by the infamous Mr. Eiffel, which was imported in 1890. Besides that, visit Belén, not too far from the center and a very interesting habitat. In Belén, life changes along with the river, also bringing great jungle food from the Amazon to the table, like caiman, monkeys, turtles and many new, strange spices. Also, don’t forget to have a peek inside the Butterfly Farm and on the amazing and unique Amazon golf club.
Due to its remote location, Iquitos is full of motor taxis which are an easy, cheap and convenient way of getting from A to B within the city. Visiting markets, the local zoo and experiencing the day-to-day remote jungle life. And although remote, Iquitos does know how to party with a well facilitated nightlife to get the necessary beers in after venturing off during the day.
The region where Iquitos is based in, Loreto, is also known for the most protected natural reserve in Peru, called “Pacaya – Samiria National Reserve”. This reserve covers an incredible area of 2.080.000 hectares, totalling 2% of Peru’s total surface! The reserve is located around 185 km from Iquitos and besides its impressive wildlife, it is also known for its Ayahuasca sessions.
Ayahuasca is a drink used by shamans to get in contact with the spiritual world, giving you an incredible inner experience (if you are open for it). On the other hand, the drink is also known to cleanse the body, where it is sure you’ll lose some body fluids, but believe us; this is a unique and unforgettable experience!
How to get to Iquitos
Iquitos, and Loreto in general, are known for its remoteness, enclosed by the arms of the Amazon and making it almost impossible to reach by ground transportation. Most backpackers take a plane to this region (1.5 hours from Lima), but there are also options to make it over the ground if you have the time available and are up for an adventure!
In this case, you can take buses from Lima leading you to Yurimaguas, via Moyobamba and Tarapoto (takes 25 – 28 hrs). From Yurimaguas, you can take a 3 day unforgettable boat trip to Iquitos. Iquitos is also reachable via Pucallpa by plane and boat (4 days).
There are alternative ways of travelling on boats, in hammock (self supplied) or in cabin. Keep in mind to be very aware of your belongings when travelling alone and a cabin, although pricier, is recommendable.
Keep in mind that the region of Loreto is extremely hot and humid, where the temperature never gets lower than 17 degrees Celcius and where the summer (December – March) can get up to an average of 36 degrees! The humidity will only add to the temperature so be prepared to take some sunblock.
Lastly, besides the plane alternative there are gorgeous boat routes to get from Iquitos to Ecuador, Colombia and Brasil. Always make sure you have your stamps in order; receive your exit stamp when leaving a country (boats will generally wit long enough to complete this) and make sure you get an entry stamp in the country of arrival. This can safe you fines and trouble along the way.